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October 23, 2012

Apple Event October 23, 2012: New 13" MacBook Pro, Mac mini, iMacs and a 7.9-inch iPad mini

Apple announcements used to be among the most highly anticipated media events on the planet when everyone wanted to see Steve Jobs do his magic on stage. It's not the same anymore without Steve, it, but everyone still breathlessly awaits the news from Cupertino, especially when it's a long rumored smaller iPad.

To be honest, it's a little painful to watch Tim Cook and Phil Schiller try to be like Steve. They are great guys, both, and supremely competent in almost everything they do, but on stage it's more like watching the characters from the movie "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." Don't try so hard, guys. Just be yourself.

Anyway, on October 23, 2012, Apple actually announced more than I expected.

First, it was a 13-inch MacBook Pro, impossibly thin at just 0.75 inches, weighing only about 3.5 pounds, and powered by the latest Intel Ivy Bridge processors. Screen resolution is a massive 2560 x 1600, four times what the old 13-inch MacBook was/is. There are to USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, an SD Card slot, a 7-hour battery, 8GB of RAM, and solid state drives up to 768GB, and it all starts at US$1,699.

Then there's a heavily updated Mac Mini. The little Mac Mini box has been around the block several times, but it's still a nice way to have a componentized Mac, and a lot of people use them as servers. Anyway, they, too, get Ivy Bridge chips, up to 16GB of RAM, up to a terabyte of disk, and they still start at US$599.

There's a new generation of desktop iMacs that look the same from the front but they are a whole lot thinner. Resolution stays the same at 2560 x 1440 for the 27-inch model and 1920 x 1080 for the smaller 21.5-inch model. There's now antireflective coating that, ahem, should get us back to the way Mac screens used to be. There are new processors, of course, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, up to 32GB of RAM, up to 3TB of disk (or up to 768GB of SSD), and there's a new "Fusion" hybrid drive that combines 128GB of Flash with a one or three Terabyte hard drive. The SD card slot has moved to the back (where it'll be hard to access) and, alas, no more optical drive. Pricing starts at US$1,299 for the 21.5 and US$1,799 for the 27-incher. I am not sure why the iMac had to be so much thinner. I mean, it's not like you have to carry it around, and you always look at it from the front.

Then it was time for iPad news. While everyone had expected a smaller Mac mini, few had expected a 4th generation regular iPad, and yet Apple introduced one just half a year after the 3rd gen. Thanks to a new A7X chip, CPU and graphics are said to be twice as fast, as is WiFi, and there's also a new ISP. The FaceTime camera is up to 720p. Battery life (10 hours) and pricing remain the same, but the 4th gen iPad has the new "Lightning" connector that was introduced with the iPhone 5. The new connector probably was the primary reason for the update. There was much grumbling amongst live commentators about how cheated 3rd gen iPad customers will feel about a new iPad so soon. Honestly, it doesn't bother me. My 3rd gen is plenty fast.

The much anticipated iPad mini looks, as was to be expected, like a slightly shrunken iPad, albeit with a noticeably smaller bezel. I say "slightly" shrunken because its display measures 7.9 inches diagonally, and not the 7.0 inches expected. It's using the same 4:3 aspect ratio as the standard iPad, and so there's considerably more screen real estate than on a 7-inch tablet. Why's that? Because even with the same diagonal size, a 4:3 display offers considerably more screen area than a wide format 16:9 screen. Add the iPad mini's larger diagonal size, and it should feel like something between a 7-inch wide-format tablet and a standard iPad.

The iPad mini weighs just .68 pounds, less than half of the full-size one, and it's also a good bit thinner. It's powered by a dual-core A5 chip, has FaceTime HD, a 5mp iSight camera, LTE, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and a 10 hour battery. Screen resolution is 1024 x 768, which means it's considerably sharper than the original iPad and iPad 2, and few complained about those tablets' resolution.

What about price? That'd be US$329 for the 16GB version, US$429 for 32GB, and US$429 for 64GB. WWAN radio ads the usual US$130 to each version.

There immediately was much yammering from the instant tech commentators. Specs not as good as tablets from Google and Amazon and others. Too expensive. Not enough resolution. And so on. The way I see it, for those who want a handier, lighter package than the full-size iPad, the new iPad mini offers all the speed and power a tablet like this needs, and it'll offer a much more satisfying viewing experience than a cramped wide-format 7-inch tablet. As for price, it's entirely appropriate.

Posted by conradb212 at October 23, 2012 12:13 PM